Health care vote may prevent Menendez from attending trial

Posted: Updated:
NEWARK -

The fourth week of Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez’s bribery trial may be a short one for the senator, as a possible U.S. Senate vote on health care looms.

The senator said that he would attend his trial every day unless business in Washington required his attention. Menendez said that if Senate leaders hold a vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, he would leave his trial to vote against the plan.

The judge has already ruled he will not halt the trial for the senator or allow lawyers to explain to the jury where he is. 

One local lawmaker tells News 12 New Jersey that it is worth it.

“I think it’s crucial that as a U.S. senator he is in Washington doing the work that we elected him to do,” says Newark Councilman Luis Quintana.

The trial Monday focused on Menendez’s connection with co-defendant Salomon Melgen. Prosecutors say Menendez attempted to intervene to help Melgen with a port security company that he was an investor in. The company did security screenings for the Dominican Republic, but the U.S. began to give the country screening equipment and the relationship between the Dominican Republic and the company stopped.

Menendez pressed administration officials with questions about the Dominican Republic’s port security. Prosecutors say he pressed the issues to help Melgen’s company.

A Commerce Department witness testified that Melgen’s lawyer met with commerce officials and threatened that Melgen had powerful friends and could cause a problem for the department.

The defense says that any interest Menendez showed in the port security case had to do with his role as a member of Congress and legitimate concerns about security.

The trial will resume Tuesday.

Meanwhile a recent poll by Suffolk University finds that 84 percent of people polled say that Menendez should resign if he is convicted.

If that were to happen the vacant seat in the Senate would be appointed by the governor. Even if he was convicted, Menendez could appeal the ruling. That would likely leave the decision in the hands of whoever wins November’s gubernatorial election.

Menendez’s seat is up for re-election in 2018.

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